The organisers of the Bangkok Midnight Marathon (BMM) 2020 have apologised and will open the race to expat runners after facing a storm of criticism for a policy perceived as barring foreigners from entering.
The BMM Facebook page and social media accounts were flooded with angry comments on Friday about the “new normal race”.
Now in its third year, the BMM — which Thai authorities created to jump-start sports tourism — said it would introduce a “new normal race” policy for the event that will take place this year on Dec 13.
Runners and organisers are expected to comply with social distancing rules, fever checks, screenings and mask-wearing.
But what fuelled outrage was the online registration form that permits only Thais to register, prompting accusations of racial discrimination.
Gregor Rasp, a former running and sports endurance coach who has lived in Thailand for 20 years, said that the policy is misguided.
“If you follow the news then you know that 99% of recent Covid-19 cases are imported by Thai nationals. And just like foreigners, these Thais have to spend 14 days in quarantine. One is only released from quarantine if he/she tests negative after 14 days,” he said.
Organisers said earlier that they had acted in good faith to take precautions against allowing anyone with a “travel history” to participate, as people who had been abroad recently might pose a higher coronavirus risk.
However, Thailand is home to thousands of foreigners, including many avid runners, who like their Thai peers have not been anywhere outside Thailand in recent months.
Boonperm Intanapasat, the BMM race director, on Friday issued a statement apologising for “failing to take into account that there were many expats here who would want to take part in the race”.
“Offending this community is the last thing we wanted to do. We love athletes of all nationalities.”
BMM later confirmed on its Facebook page that registration for expat runners would open on Aug 13. The regular registration fee for the 21km race is 950 baht. That is 200 baht more than the early-bird fee, which was available only until Saturday night.
This article was first published in Bangkok Post